WASHINGTON- an extraordinary encounter in Donald Trump’s White House less than three weeks before the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 he burst into screaming, yelling, and threatening.
Competing factions were pitted against each other for the former president’s attention and decision-making power.
He was repeatedly told by Trump’s White House legal team that he had lost the election to Joe Biden. But a group of outside advisers led by attorney Sidney Powell fed the president outlandish theories about foreign influence on voting machines and proposed immediate mass seizure of the disputed machines by the US military.
The plan was never carried out.
The outburst between Trump advisers at the unplanned meeting was one of the key revelations to emerge Tuesday in the seventh hearing of a House Committee investigating the Capitol uprising.
“The meeting has been called insane, not normal and the craziest meeting of the Trump presidency,” said committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md. “Despite all the absurdity,” he added, the meeting was significant because Trump watched his White House lawyers for hours as they “destroyed the unsubstantiated factual claims and ridiculous legal arguments” that Powell and others were making.
“President Trump now knew that all of these claims were nonsense,” he said.
This is how the meeting unfolded:
The three external advisors who arrived without an appointment
Powell showed up at the White House on the night of December 18, unannounced and without an appointment. She was joined by former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, and Patrick Byrne, a Trump ally and former CEO of Overstock.com.
The trio were allowed access to the White House by a junior staff member, according to Raskin, and made their way to the Oval Office.
The meeting lasted six hours, beginning in the Oval Office, winding through the West Wing and reaching Trump’s private White House residence.
‘A land speed record’: White House legal team wanted Powell out
Powell told the committee that it took only 10 to 15 minutes for his team to speak with Trump in the Oval Office before White House counsel Pat Cipollone and others showed up and tried to break up the meeting.
“I bet Pat Cipollone set a new land speed record,” Powell said in a videotaped statement.
Cipollone said that he was “not happy” to see Powell and Flynn, and that he did not know Byrne.
“The first thing I did was walk in, I looked at him and I said, ‘Who are you?'” Cipollone said. “I don’t think any of these people were giving the president good advice. So I didn’t understand how they got in.”
‘It was not a chance encounter’
Former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann said Powell and others told Trump that Democrats worked with Venezuela to rig voting machines.
At one point, Flynn pulled out a diagram claiming communications from people around the world about rigged voting machines. He said Flynn also made “some comments about the Internet-connected Nest thermostats.”
Flynn cited his Fifth Amendment rights when questioned by the committee about the meeting.
“It was not a chance meeting,” said Derek Lyons, a former White House staff secretary. “Sometimes, people yelled at each other, insulted each other.”
‘Where is the evidence?’: The fight builds
Powell told the committee that Cipollone and Herschmann “showed nothing but disdain and contempt for the president.”
“If it had been me sitting in his chair, I would have fired them all that night and escorted them out of the building.”
Cipollone said that Powell, Flynn and Byrne began “verbally attacking” himself and Herschmann.
“We were asking a simple question as a general matter: Where is the evidence?” Cipollon said.
He said that Powell and others had a “general contempt” for the importance of backing up wild claims.
Herschmann said Powell called out “corrupt judges” to explain how Trump lost each of his nationwide legal challenges to overturn election results.
“I was like, ‘Everyone?'” Herschmann said. “‘Every one of the cases that you have done in the country, you lost. Are all of them corrupt? Even the ones we named?'”
He added: “I’m being nice. I was much harder on her.”
A divided inner circle is scattered throughout the White House
The meeting continued into the night and ended after midnight.
“It got to the point where the screaming was completely out,” Herschmann said. “What they were proposing, I thought was crazy.”
Herschmann said that Fynn kept standing up and calling him “a deserter.”
“At some point, I had it with him. So, I yelled at him, ‘Either come over or sit your fucking ass back down.'”
Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, a former New York mayor who was in Powell’s camp, said he told the White House legal team they were a “bunch of fags” for not wanting to fight the election results.
Cipollone, Herschmann, and the White House legal team split up in the Yellow Oval Room, and Powell, Flynn, and Byre went to the Roosevelt Room.
“And I stayed in the Cabinet room, which is great, I like it a lot, just,” Giuliani said.
Trump sought to appoint Powell special counsel with security clearance
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, captured the aftermath of the meeting in a text, released by the committee, that showed Meadows escorting Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, off the House grounds. Blanca to “make sure you don’t go back into the mansion.
Earlier in the evening, as the fight raged, Hutchinson texted: “The West Wing is OUTRAGED.”
Two days before the meeting, Trump aides drafted an executive order on Dec. 16 that was never executed to order the Defense Department to seize the voting machines “effective immediately.”
The draft order, which was given to Trump at the Dec. 18 meeting, would also have designated Powell as a special counsel with the power to seize voting machines and the ability to charge people with crimes.
Powell said Trump discussed his hope that Powell would serve as special adviser with security clearance at the meeting. But she said Cipollone and others told the president that no one would pay attention to the move.
“See what I’m dealing with?” Trump responded, according to Powell. “I deal with this all the time.”
Contact Joey Garrison on Twitter @Joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Inside Trump’s ‘Unhinged’ Meeting Weeks Before Jan. 6 Attack